Okay so it’s been almost a month since I finished the 10 day Vipassana silent meditation retreat, and I think I’m ready to accurately write about it now. If you want to know more about Vipassana and the daily schedule, you can check out this post.
As part of my spiritual roadtrip, I went to a Vipassana retreat- this is a 10 day silent retreat in which you meditate for 10.5 hours a day, using a specific technique.
Before I started the course, here’s how I imagined I would be summarizing it:
“Wow what a beautiful experience! The first few days were definitely challenging, but by day four I’d arrived at this amazing place of deep inner peace and contentment and the rest of the week was blissful. I feel more calm and at peace than I ever have.”
Yeeah. Not. So. Much.
Here’s a more accurate summary:
OMG that was the hardest thing that I’ve ever done, and I mean this physically, emotionally, and mentally.
I thought my experience would be more linear- as in it would be difficult at first but gradually get easier and easier until I was loving it, but it wasn’t like that at all! My highs and lows were all over the place, and for the most part it was very very challenging.
If I had of written about my experience right after the retreat, I would have left it at that, but now that some time has passed, I’m realizing more and more that, while challenging, it was also pretty amazing.
Basically the way the meditation technique works is that it pulls up all of your subconscious pain so that it can be cleared and you can be freed of it. I.e. in order to heal it, you first have to really feel it. Because of the mind-body connection, when emotional pain is released, it can be felt in many different ways. For me, I had a lot of physical body pain, but I’d also get overcome by waves of intense emotion. When you would stay with the technique, in spite of the discomfort of whatever you’re feeling, it would lessen or go away completely.
I’m wary to say too much about Vipassana because it is so individual, and I don’t want to sway your opinion based on my experience. Explaining the term Vipassana is like explaining what a movie is. There is a beginning, middle and an end, and things will happen throughout, but that’s pretty much the extent of the similarities- after that every movie, and every Vipassana experience, is completely unique. It is such an individual experience- some people found it more challenging than I did and others enjoyed it. So remember, this is my personal experience, not a summary of how it is for everyone.
Every day had its challenges, its realizations, and its emotional clearings, but there were two days in particular when something really significant happened for me. I’ve named them The Day 4 Breakdown and The Day 7 Light Bulb Moment.
The Day 4 Breakdown
Going into Vipassana, the thing I was worried about most was the physicall pain because I’m prone to body pain in my every day life. By Day 4, my back was hurting so much that I was finding it hard to stay still during meditation. Generally, we were allowed to move and change positions if we needed to, but on this day, we were instructed to sit for an hour with no movement at all.
So I was sitting there, trying not to move, and tears were just pouring down my face because my back hurt so much (thank god for silent crying! That situation could have been a lot more awkward because I’m generally not a subtle crier).
I kept telling myself “just stay with it, this pain means you’re releasing things, and you need to do this.”
Finally though, I couldn’t deal with it, and I involuntarily leaned over my legs to stretch my back out and I just cried a lot (still silently- woot woot!). I really realized in that moment that I have spent so much time trying to force myself into perfection and that I often operate under the mind set that something is wrong with me and I need to keep doing more spiritual work to “fix” myself. I just kept thinking over and over “Why am I doing this to myself?! There is nothing wrong with me, and I am so tired of pushing myself to the point of pain to try to perfect myself.”
In that moment, I let go of the need to force myself into growth, and I made a vow to put my personal needs over anyone else’s instructions on how to improve my life. I felt so peaceful and almost in a dreamlike state for the rest of the day.
I’m still noticing the effects of this in my life today, and I’m so grateful that I had that realization- it was so freeing.
The Day 7 Light Bulb Moment
The shift that occurred for me on Day 4 was a huge turning point because I felt like I didn’t need Vipassana anymore. Before going, I told myself there was no way I’d quit and leave early, but after Day 4 I realized that I wanted to complete it but that I wouldn’t be a failure if I didn’t. I often cling to things thinking they are my source of happiness, enlightenment, whatever, but Day 4 showed me that I am whole and complete on my own.
So after I’d let go of a big chunk of emotional pain, I was left with boredom. Yup no deep dark emotion scars- I was just really bored. I couldn’t sit still, couldn’t keep my mind focused, and was craving some excitement.
My Aunt was at the restreat with me, and we rarely broke the vow of silence, but on Day 7, I whispered to her “I’m so bored,” and she whispered back “I can tell. Being bored is a theme in your life- you never want to stay in one place or keep a job, and now you have an opportunity to clear this and change this pattern.”
Damn! She’s good- and so right. I get bored so easily, and I do anything to avoid it. My fear of boredom makes me avoid commitment, and in some ways this has been an amazing gift; because of it, I’ve travelled, lived abroad, have a variety or work experience and training, and have done some pretty cool things. On the other hand, it’s also probably why I’m now living with my parents and just getting my career started.
I asked myself what benefit I’m getting from being bored (because our subconscious mind will not let go of a belief if it feels that it’s benefiting us in some way), and I realized that being bored is part of my identity, and I like it because it makes me feel interesting. I’d associated commitment with boredom and continuous change with fun and freedom. Like I said, this had its benefits, but the constant need for change was starting to negatively affect my life.
I set the intention to release my attachment to boredom and find the fun and freedom in commitment.
When I would start squirming during a meditation, I would consciously release the need to be bored, and doing so brought me a lot of peace.
This is something I’m continuing to work on, but this Day 7 Lightbulb Moment really set the foundation for a new way of living for me.
Life After Vipassana
Vipassana was so hard, but I truly feel like it marked a turning point in my life. Am I Zen 24/7, free of body pain, and 100% into commitment? Of course not, but I just feel different in ways that are kind of hard to explain. It’s pretty cool.
Even with all of the benefits though, I still don’t know how I feel about Vipassana.
Here’s my dilemma- do growth and peace and powerful change need to happen through physical and emotional pain? Those 10 days were brutal (for me)!! I don’t want to believe that my path to happiness needs to be so painful.
I believe that Vipassana is one path but is by no means the only one. I know change has painful elements to it, but I also am interested in finding paths that are based on fun and joy. I think that’s why I’ve become so interested in Tantra.
What else is there to say? I’ll be forever grateful for that experience, but I still have some reservations. If you have any questions at all, please reach out. Comment below, send me a Facebook message, call me, whatever. I absolutely love helping people on their paths, and I’d love to talk to you.